Alumni Profile: Kim Vinson, MD’03
From medical student to mentor
You can find Kim Vinson, MD, seeing patients at the Vanderbilt Voice Center or developing new diversity initiatives in her office in Light Hall. But Vinson’s path to becoming an otolaryngology specialist and associate dean for Diversity Affairs began more than 20 years ago, when she first joined the Vanderbilt community as a medical student in 1999.
A north Alabama native, Vinson initially only applied to schools in her state. After she sent in her applications, she had a feeling she should apply to one more school. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine immediately came to mind for its proximity to home and strong reputation, but Vinson never thought she would be offered a secondary application or interview.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my interview day and left thinking about what a wonderful place Vanderbilt is. But I never expected to get in,” Vinson said.
Vinson was accepted and went on to graduate from VUSM in 2003 before completing both her internship in general surgery and her residency in otolaryngology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
In 2011, 12 years after she first set foot on Vanderbilt’s campus, Vinson joined the Office of Diversity Affairs as an assistant dean and immediately began working on initiatives to continue fostering diversity and inclusion in the medical school.
“Here at Vanderbilt, what makes me really excited is we really think about all different forms of diversity,” Vinson said. “It’s not just race and ethnicity. It is geographic origin. It is socioeconomic status. It is gender and gender identity and sexual orientation. It is all these other things that make us different from each other, and those things are also really valued here.”
Vinson currently leads the VUSM Short Pipeline, which supports underrepresented minority students in the medical school application process. Vinson also runs the Undergraduate Clinical Research Internship Program, a research program associated with the Vanderbilt Summer Science Academy that combines research and clinical experiences for undergraduate students.
“I loved science and math as a kid and always knew that I wanted to pursue medicine,” Vinson said. “However, as the first person in my family to consider medicine as a career, I looked to advisers and mentors for help navigating the path to medical school. Pipeline programs are incredibly important for young students — not only to introduce them to medicine or biomedical research as a career — but also to support them on the journey to medical or graduate school.”
When Vinson is not seeing patients, expanding education opportunities for promising undergraduate students or mentoring current medical students, you can find her staying active and busy with her husband and their two daughters — ages 4 and 7.
“We love to be outside — in normal times we love going to the farmer’s market and finding good live music here in Nashville,” Vinson said. “We also love exploring the zoo and visiting Cheekwood Estate and Gardens. My family definitely keeps me on my toes.”